Transgender Sportsmanship

By Dave Granlund

By Dave Granlund

In another step forward for transgender rights, the ability to play on sports teams matching their gender is spreading across school districts.  Recently in Minnesota a school voted in a landslide victory to let their athletes play on their gender team.  This is something that increasingly is being done, but in this particular case, a little more spotlight was shed on the issue thanks to the Governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton.  Governor Dayton chose to address not only this issue, but people who voted against the measure.  He had seen an advertisement printed by the Minnesota Child Protection League in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The advertisements contained not only false claims about what exactly the measure meant, and who it would impact, but used an overly emotional argument to influence people’s opinions before the vote.  The Governor addressed the ad by saying

“I think some of the hate-mongering that was going on was just despicable…I can’t comprehend how some people in this state can want to spend their time on something that’s that destructive to other people’s lives and misstate it in such a way that is really appalling.”

The more that we see people who have a public audience stand up and express their support for not only transgender rights, but LGBTQ rights and human rights in general, the more exposure and gravity these movements gain.  Every speech, blog, conversation, and comment helps.

Genderless Ideas

I meant to post this on Transgender Day of Remembrance, but missed by one day.  In all fairness, my Thursday was absolutely insane.  I’m making up for it by posting an extra-long blog for y’all today!

Transgender rights has been something that has weighed heavily on my mind lately.  I’m not sure why exactly, but every situation where a trans person would be uncomfortable seems to trigger me.  I think that with all of the developments being made in the arena of gay marriage and gay rights I feel like the basic, simple, everyday rights of transgender people are being forgotten (or at least overshadowed).

So I decided to take a basic internet survey (via posting in several completely non-related groups), regarding transgender bathroom assignment.  To me, this seems relatively straightforward, so I wanted to see how many people agree.  I was also hoping to prompt some interesting conversations for people who haven’t spent any time researching or considering transgender rights.  The survey was fairly simple.  You were asked three questions regarding what bathroom transgender people should use (each question identified a different age group), and you were given three options for answers.  There was then a space for people to express why they had chosen what they had chosen, but this wasn’t required.  I feel that I got responses from people on just about every part of the spectrum, opinion-wise.

The first question was “Do you believe that transgender elementary students should be able to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the options of “Yes; they should use the bathroom that matches their gender,” “No; they should use the restroom that matches their biological sex,” or “They should use a single-stall separate restroom.”  Out of 65 responses, 38 chose “yes,” 20 chose “no,” and 7 chose “single-stall.”

The second question was “Do you believe that transgender high school students should be able to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the same answer options as question one.  I decided to choose two different school settings because of the controversy surrounding younger transgender people transitioning while in school.  I was also interested in the younger vs older comparison because of the arguments surrounding the possibility of sexual assault, if restrooms are used by transgender students.  Again, out of 65 responses, 42 chose “yes,” 11 chose “no,” and 12 chose “single-stall.”

The third question was “Do you believe transgender people should be able to use the public bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the same “yes” and “no” options, but the third option was phrased slightly differently for clarity’s sake.  The third option said “They should use single-stall alternate (family) restrooms.”  I knew that there would be a significant amount of adults taking the survey, and considered them more likely to approach the student questions from a mindset of protecting younger people.  I inserted this questions to attempt to force them to investigate their own personal feelings regarding both being in a restroom with a trans person, and forcing someone their own age to use a restroom they may be uncomfortable with.  I had hoped they would put themselves in the trans person’s shoes when asked from this perspective.  Out of the same 65 people, 46 said “yes,” 8 said “no,” and 11 said “single-stall.”

I was a bit shocked that the statistics didn’t significantly change between questions.  Most people picked all of one answer (i.e. 3 yes or 3 no).  There were only a few people who selected different options for different scenarios.  It seemed that people either decidedly were uncomfortable with people using bathrooms based on gender, or they simply weren’t.  The open responses brought all types of responses; the open-minded, the angry, the explicit, the indifferent, and the generally unrelated.  The prompt simply read “Why or why not?”  Responses ranged from “Biological sex is their true gender regardless of what gender they believe themselves.” to “Because that is their gender even if they weren’t born that way.”  There was on response that used the prompt as an opportunity to criticize America’s handling of restrooms in general, saying

“I personally see no problem with both genders, and sex, sharing the same bathrooms. I think that in America going to the bathroom is over sexualized, where people are appalled at the idea of men and women sharing. The main argument I’ve heard against it is that men will attack women in the bathroom, however, if something like that were to happen I think that would have much more to do with the amount of violence in that area. If someone is twisted enough to attack someone in a bathroom then they’re going to do it regardless of if they’re “allowed” to be in that particular stall or not. A bathroom is a bathroom, we all have to use it, so what’s the big deal with keeping everything separated?”

There were slightly humorous takes on the situation, such as “Because everyone has a right to pee in peace.” and there were also very serious observations, such as “they’re just trying to apply to our socially ascribed rules as fits them.”  There was even a response that simply listed “tough questions” at the end of the survey.

Out of everything contained in this, the thing that shocked me the most were people who seemed to believe that the single-stall bathrooms were a way to make everyone comfortable.  I purposefully placed that answer to see if people genuinely believed that this was a fair solution for all involved, and it seems that many do.  The people who chose the single-stall answers left comments like “It doesn’t bother anyone if they use a family bathroom, and it’s probably less awkward for them, not getting stares and what not.”  They argued that “It’s disrespectful to others that aren’t comfortable with the transgender population.”  They even left responses as blatant as “Because I can’t pee if a person with a penis is in the stall next to me.” I’m not kidding.  I was shocked.  I can’t imagine being told, my whole life, that I can’t use the same restrooms as almost everyone else around me.  Wouldn’t that feel, to you, like you were shouting to the whole world “HEY, LOOK AT ME.  I’M TRANSGENDER.” every time you walked into the single-stall handicapped/family restroom?  There are so many transgender people who go to great lengths to conceal the fact that they are transgender that we don’t even have any accurate statistics on how many people transgender people there are.  Asking them to identify themselves in public by using a specifically dictated bathroom is inhumane.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s hard for me to believe that people think that it’s fair in any respect.

There were two remarks that expressed concern for the safety of the transgender person themselves, saying “I don’t think our society is ready to responsibly and humanely integrate transgender students/adult in a public restroom setting.” I think that this is a valid concern, especially right now.  As this survey clearly indicates, there are a lot of people who are still incredibly uncomfortable with even the idea of a transgender person, forget an actual human being.  That being said, there are many hard-fought wars over basic human rights that have happened within even the past 100 years.  Most of them have resulted in some bloodshed.  I know plenty of transgender people who are willing to fight, and fight hard, for rights as basic as using a public restroom.  There are plenty of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ Allies that will join in that fight (and already have) and shed blood right alongside them.

I don’t think that this survey itself will change the world.  I don’t even know how many people will make it to the end of this post.  What I do know, is that this has opened my eyes to the discrimination coming from all around me, to people who have done nothing to deserve it.  I hope that I’m not the only one it impacts, but if I am?  I’ve certainly taken on a new respect for what’s happening around me.  And with that, I’ve taken on a new fight.

Maybe When You’re Older…

by Joel Pett

by Joel Pett

When I was younger, I wasn’t well-informed on anything except for which of my friends had the best swimming pool.  Things have changed a lot since then.  There are young people everywhere literally changing the world.  Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize at just 17 for her work in women’s education and basic rights movements.  Now, here’s a young woman at the forefront of the transgender rights and education movement, at only 14 years old.  Jazz Jennings knew before she could understand the complex roles gender identity played in societal and social mores, that she wasn’t the gender she was assigned.  From the looks of it, she hasn’t doubted it for a second since then.  That makes her willingness to speak out, help adults and children alike, and represent a rapidly changing perception of gender dysphoria and transgender individuals that much more remarkable.  Young people like Malala and Jazz are showing the world that these issues are so important that people 20, 30, 40, even 50 years younger than the politicians representing them are willing to get out into the real world and fight for them.  If that doesn’t send a message, I don’t know what does.

Victory?

Sometimes I like to read ultra-conservative blogs.  It’s an interesting leap from my usual sources, and it reminds me that not everyone agrees with the same things that I do.  I tend to react differently to each story, varying from vaguely interested to flaming mad.  This one was further on the negative side.  What really cranked me up wasn’t the article, however.  Although the article came from a point of view not quite congruent with my own, the comments took several steps past this stance.  As typical with internet anonymity, people feel free to be hateful, crude, and generally intense in any direction they choose.  Responses like “treating someone delusions as if they were reality is a very very cruel joke. Shame on the school board.” and “They’d invite Hitler to speak, were he alive today.” pretty clearly demonstrate that not only do some of these people lack basic understanding regarding transgender children and adult, but that they don’t care to acquire any.  Some of the more educated (yet highly offensive) comments reflect a complete lack of sensitivity and care for fellow humans.  I don’t understand why it has to be so hard to show compassion for other people.

Miami-Dade’s Big Discrimination Step

Supreme court gay marriage

Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

In a huge step for transgender rights, Miami-Dade county in California has tentatively approved legislature that uses the words “gender identity,” and “gender expression.”  SHOCKING.  Even more impressive, is that there was no fighting, no arguing, and no ugly name-calling involved.  They voted unanimously in favor of the law.  It’s basis is banning discrimination based on gender identity in several big realms (including government services, housing, and employment).  Every time one of these laws gets passed (or even gets close, as this one is), we get closer and closer to the time in our history where people are all protected from discriminatory actions by law.  Moving towards simple human rights provided to everyone is an exciting step for all of us, even if it happens one county at a time.  At this point, lots of these bans are being drafted and considered, but not many have yet been put into work or “officially” been approved.   We’re taking baby steps towards being fair and equal to everyone, but at least we’re still moving forward.